It is very common that babies go through periods of preferring only one of the parents in various (or all) situations.
Exhausting for the preferred parent, sad for the rejected one.
In this post, I answer a mom who reaches out because her baby refuses to sleep for dad and gets really upset if he tries to put her to bed.
Here’s Mom’s question:
My baby has suddenly started to refuse dad putting her to sleep.
We have got our 11-month-old baby on a pretty good sleep schedule and try not to get her out of her crib when she breaks it.
Over the last week though her teeth have been really sore and she has been waking up a lot. Most of the time she goes back to sleep with just a rub on the back from me.
She has however started to freak out if her daddy tries to get her back to sleep. She pushes his hand away and calls for me. When he finally gives in and picks her up she still freaks until he gives her to me and then she calms right down and hugs me. She usually needs to nurse to get back to sleep but doesn’t insist on doing it right away. She just wants me to hold her.
My husband has been really sad about this as he used to be able to snuggle her to sleep. He works some nights and with her being on a good schedule she has only been getting up to nurse for a while now.
Could it just be because it has been so long since he got up with her, or maybe because I was the one who stayed with her for hours putting her back down when she was first learning to stay in the crib?
Does he just need to persevere or could this just be a stage she is going through? She has never acted strangely with anyone and is always really happy to see him when he comes home from work. Maybe mommy and daddy are just for different things now? It is true that she won’t play the same way with me as with him.
Anyways, I have lots of theories but no real clue as to why she refuses to sleep for dad. I would like it to change if we can. Your opinion would be appreciated.
Tips When Baby Refuses to Sleep for Dad
Poor dad! I’d say things like this happen with most children and usually, mom becomes the favorite, simply because we tend to be around more. With that I don’t mean favorite in the sense “loved more”, but only preferred because of habit really.
Here are some possible ways forward.
Give Dad Full Responsibility at Night
It is quite likely that the fact that you are the one most often attending to your daughter at night is why she is pushing dad away.
If you really want to change that right now, you’ll probably have to give him full responsibility at night – every night. At least for a while.
This might, however, be too tough to implement right now, for all of you.
In addition, you mention that dad works at night sometimes. This means that even if dad longs to snuggle with your daughter, it is a change of her routines for HER, and maybe not at all what she expects, wants and needs when she wakes up at night.
Babies are routine lovers.
Instead, try the two tips below first, and once these things work, you can move to let dad handle the nights.
Let Dad Handle the First Sleep Routine in the Evening
Another possibility is to let dad take charge of the first sleep routine in the evening or possibly during the naps at day time.
The trick is to really let the two of them find their own (new) way without any interference. This way they’ll find their own new routines and your daughter will know that she can rely on these cozy routines with dad.
Put Baby in Your Bed When She Wakes Up
Another thing you could try is to not keep her in your arms to go back to sleep at night, but rather put her in your bed in between the two of you for a while.
This way both mom and dad will be around, which might just mean that she’ll accept dad helping her in a while.
However, you need to be cautious about co-sleeping, since it can be a real risk for your baby. So either stay awake or make sure you have implemented all necessary risk mitigations for co-sleeping. Your baby is 11 months, which means that the risk of SIDS is relatively low, but other parents with younger babies, really need to make sure they follow co-sleeping safety guidelines if they think they might fall asleep.
Handle Your Own Emotions
While all this goes on, how mommy and daddy – and especially daddy – feel about it is probably even more important than the actual situation; your daughter probably doesn’t see a problem, she just wants mom…
I asked my husband what would be his best dad-to-dad advice in this situation; obviously, he’s been there many times. This is what he said:
Try to let go of the feeling of disappointment and/ feeling sad or jealous or even angry with your wife. The child just needs who she needs and this varies over time. Instead, spend as much time as is ever possible with your daughter and the reward will come!
What children need the most to feel safe with a certain person (mom, dad or whoever) is time together. Be cool about this specific situation, don’t force anything. Instead just be with her a lot in a positive way, day or night.
So, I guess our combined tip is to let the girl have Mom when she wants to and make sure dad is let in whenever possible. Remember that it is common that a baby refuses to sleep for dad. It is common for toddlers too!
Talk through a strategy (including naps, bed-sharing or whatever) if the nights are important for you.
Find Other Ways to Bond
Remember that there are many, many possibilities to bond for baby and dad in addition to this specific sleep situation.
It might be better to focus elsewhere and build an even better relationship that way. A wonderful book on the topic is The Baby Bonding Book for Dads: Building a Closer Connection With Your Baby.
Of course, it is easy to focus on what is NOT working – (baby refuses to sleep for dad, oh NO…). But try to put light on what is working instead and do more of that. It is more fun and probably easier than trying to “win” the sleep situation through some power struggle.
I wish you good luck!
Hey parents, who else’s baby refuses to sleep for dad? Or was? If you have a tips to share or a question, leave a comment below!
You’ll find many more bonding questions and answers here.